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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gritty, tension-filled thriller directed by Ben Affleck about a crew of Boston bank robbers has plenty of excitement -- and plenty of graphic violence. The main characters are drawn into high-powered shoot-outs with the cops that leave several people dead or dying in pools of blood (two characters are shot in the head on screen). There are several bar scenes with a good bit of drinking, as well as near-constant swearing ("f--k" "s--t," and more). There are a few sex scenes, too, but, ultimately, it’s the realistic, intense violence that parents really need to watch out for.
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What's the story?
Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads a band of professional bank robbers that includes his childhood best friend, Jem (Jeremy Renner). It's all he knows after botching a future in pro hockey (thanks to drugs), and it's a life he treasures -- even though it has both nurtured and wrecked him. On one of their heists, the gang abducts a bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), whom they let go once they're clear of the cops. But Jem's convinced that she'll get them in trouble, so Doug, sensing Jem's instability, decides to shadow her to see whether she'll become a liability. After getting to know her, Doug begins to entertain the possibility of starting over, perhaps with her -- a plan that Jem may not allow. Meanwhile, time is running out: An FBI agent (Jon Hamm) is nipping at their heels.
Is it any good?
With a deft hand, Affleck, who also directs, creates a fully rendered picture in THE TOWN of a man poised at a crossroads. Should he put the life he has lived thus far in, as he says, "the rear view," or commit to the path that has both nurtured and wrecked him? We sympathize with him despite the fact that he's essentially the bad guy -- even though he's not the baddest of the bunch. That "honor" falls to Jem, who frightens with his unpredictability and volatility, a cocktail that discomfits the audience thanks to Renner's enormous talent.
Most everyone, in fact, brings their A-game, from Hall to the bit players. (The gifted Hamm, however, surprisingly rates a B-plus; he's strong, but he doesn't seem as comfortable in this skin as he playing Mad Men's Don Draper.) So it's no wonder the disappointment that comes with the ending feels like a sucker punch: The last three minutes are too Hollywood, too Shawshank Redemption (without the originality), so far removed from the authentic Charlestown that Affleck has masterfully depicted during the 122 minutes that came before it. The wrap-up undercuts the fim -- though luckily, not entirely. What a statement The Town would have been had Affleck not given in to the inclination for a tidy, bow-tied ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "good guys" vs. "bad guys." Do you think someone who steals for a living should be portrayed as the “hero” of a movie? Do you think the criminals in this film come across as more competent than the cops?
Are there any obvious role models in this movie? What message do you think it's trying to send?
Do you think Doug MacRay is destined to become a bank robber like his father? How hard is it for him to escape this lifestyle?
- In theaters: September 17, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2010
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall
- Director: Ben Affleck
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.